10 Tips to Prepare Your Car For a Road Trip
As the sunshine brightens and lengthens the summer days more and more people head out on road trips.
In fact, more than 79% of Americans this year will take a good old-fashioned family road trip as their main vacation despite the price of gas being so high.
Before you head out to explore all that America has to offer you need to make sure you and your car are ready for the adventure.
Check out these essential tips to prepare your car for a road trip!
It's better to be proactive in your car's general health than to wait for it to tell you it's in need of fluid. By the time the light comes on damage can already be done by improper fluid levels.
It's especially true when traveling distances to ensure your fluid levels, filters, and hoses are all ready for travel.
You'll want to check:
- Windshield washer fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Power steering fluid
Any regular maintenance of fluids such as oil changes should be performed before you take to the road. You don't want to incur major expenses and delays during your vacation because of lack of car care.
Take in to account how far you'll be traveling when considering what maintenance to do.
You may still be thousands of miles from needing an oil change but if you're driving across country for a month, you'll want to have your trusted mechanic perform any service prior to setting out.
Hoses, Tubes, Belts, and Such
It's much easier to deal with any issues while at home in familiar surroundings than to be in a strange town waiting for a hose or belt to be delivered to a strange mechanic you don't know if you can trust or not.
Have a trusted mechanic give your car the once over before you take to the road. They can ensure all hoses, belts, nuts, bolts and working parts are in fact working the way they're supposed to.
It's important that all the lights you need are working when you need them to. You don't want to find out while speeding down the highway in the middle of the night or trying to switch lanes during rush hour.
Headlights, blinkers, brake lights are all essential to safe driving. You should check that fuses and dashboard lights are all working as well and it may be smart to have a spare pack tucked into your emergency car kit just in case.
It's a good idea to ensure your trunk light is also working because you never know when you'll need to be searching for a jack to change a tire or trying to find your extra sweater when the road trip continues through the night.
Battery issues can slow your adventure down and be a real hassle so it's always smart to give it a thorough inspection prior to your trip.
While you may not be able to tell battery health just by looking at it there're several warning signs of a potential problem with your battery. Dim headlights, electronics not functioning properly and difficulty starting can all be indications of a battery issue.
There are several things that can drain or damage your car battery which you'll want to avoid. The most common dead battery issue is that someone left something switched on for a long period of time.
You can see some signs like corrosion or swelling battery case but if you have other concerns about the age or power of your battery it's better to talk to your trusted mechanic at home than to have your vacation come to a standstill when it dies in a strange town.
Your car manual will specify the right tires and the proper pressure amount for them.
Tire pressure, tread wear and tear and your spare tire all need to be checked before any trip.
If you find your tires require air on a regular basis you'll want to check for tire leaks and visually inspect the treads for areas that are worn down.
Changing a tire is a great skill to acquire before heading out on the road. Make sure that all the supplies to do so are packed and in good working order.
There are tire gauges and small air compressors that are great to include in your emergency kit.
"Be Prepared" shouldn't just be the Boy Scouts motto, but the motto for any road trip. It's vital to your safety and ability to enjoy your vacation that you're prepared for unplanned situations.
Putting together an emergency car kit can be a time and life saver that you'll be glad you took the time to prepare beforehand.
Extra car fluids like motor oil, brake fluid, coolant, windshield wiper fluid, a bottle of water and a gas can are all smart to include.
Every emergency kit should have:
- Jumper cables,
- Flares or reflector triangles, and
- Bungee cords.
- Tools, a pocket knife,
- Flashlight and batteries
Many people include items like pantyhose (to replace a broken engine belt in a pinch), kitty litter (in case stuck in the snow or sand to create traction), emergency supplies like medicine, food, and water.
First Aid and Survival Supplies
Having a first aid kit is something no one ever really regrets. Everyone regrets not having one in the car when needed.
A standard kit can be picked up at a local pharmacy or health care supplies store. On top of the usual first aid supplies of band-aids, antiseptic, gauze, scissors, etc. you should always include an extra supply of all medications travelers are taking, EpiPens, etc.
Your planned adventure will help determine what survival supplies are appropriate to pack. Blankets, soap, energy bars, water, water purification pills, etc may be considered for off-road adventures or where you could possibly end up stuck away from civilization.
You'll also want to ensure you have appropriate clothing and supplies for all weather possibilities on your route. Don't forget nights can be cold even in the summertime and you don't want to face it without warm clothes and blankets to protect you from the elements if necessary.
Most of us don't use paper maps anymore but if you end up with a dead cell phone battery or out of service range while using it as a GPS you could end up being as lost as the cell signal.
Make sure you have all the cords, adapters, backups and technology you need to be safe and stay informed throughout your travels.
As much as we've developed technology this is not a paperless society and there are some essential papers you're going to want to make sure you have.
The car manual, registration, insurance, etc are all essential paperwork you should have access to in case you need it. You don't want to have to dig to the bottom of your trunk to show them to law enforcement or other officials if needed.
Make sure you have car owner registration (and a letter from the owner if you're borrowing it for the trip), personal identification including drivers licenses, birth certificates, health information, etc someplace you can get to them if you need to.
Health and Legal
Medications should all be in original prescription bottles, medical alert bracelets and health emergency contact information is good to have in a visible place in case the information is needed and you're unable to communicate.
If you are traveling across borders to Canada, Mexico or beyond you'll need to have legal documents such as passport, custody arrangements for children, legal ownership of car, etc.
Repairs and Maintenance to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip
The best way to have peace of mind and prepare your car for a road trip is to take it in for any maintenance and repairs it may need now or in the near future.
A mechanic can ensure your car is safe and working optimally for your trip. They can identify issues that you may not have seen. You can have confidence that your car is safe and enjoy your trip without the fear or hassle of car issues.
Contact us before your next road trip to ensure your car is performing at it's best.